Group Aims to Build for the Future of Engineering; despite a Chronic Shortage of Engineers, Britain's Education System Is Still Not Producing People with the Skills That Manufacturers Are Crying out for. Part of the Blame Must Go to Schools for Failing to Inspire Young Minds in the Sciences. Shahid Naqvi Meets an Organisation That Is Attempting to Redress the Balance
Byline: Shahid Naqvi
Reports of the death of manufacturing have been grossly exaggerated. Despite the tales of gloom, the sector still accounts for a third of British exports and employs 1.7 million people.
Moreover, half of the country's top companies rely on manufacturing for their future prosperity in some form.
Its health is clearly an important part of the economy's strength, yet those involved in it believe their needs are being ignored.
One of the biggest manifestations of the neglect, they say, is the lack of people equipped with the skills they need to survive.
And the finger of blame is being pointed at schools. Manufacturers believe the 'second-class' status given to engineers relative to other countries in Europe originates from the education system.
Right from primary school, teachers are failing to fire the imaginations of pupils to see any worth in a career in industry, they say.
As a result, the more vocational emphasis recently injected into the post-14 curriculum, is too little, too late. By their teens, most youngsters have switched off to science and are more likely to turn to subjects they perceive as more glamorous, like the media and the arts.
A group of Midland engineering enthusiasts, however, are now hoping to turn the tide.
Four years ago they created Imagineering, a unique organisation that visits schools in the area and attempts to destroy misconceptions that engineering is for geeks.
It does so by showing pupils how to make things.
Co-ordinator David Bray said it was all about rediscovering basic human skills that are fast disappearing.
'Kids today have computer games and TVs which give them finger skills, but everything is done for them on screen,' he said.
'The children haven't discovered the excitement of doing something for themselves and making something work.
'The human race has been around millions of years and it has only been in the last couple of decades we haven't needed the intellectual skills to make things in order to survive.'
A failure to nurture engineering skills, however, could ultimately prove fatal to the economy.
And it is in the industrial heartland of the West Midlands that the pain is likely to be most keenly felt. …